Gotta love that great British reserve – you mention the word sauna and there aren’t many other words/concepts which can polarise people and make them visibly squirm. One of the best things to come out of Finland (vodka excepted), the dry sauna is a fantastic way to spend a good half hour, sweating one’s guts out in a hot box. Of course when I say sauna, I don’t just mean that one activity but the whole spa kit & caboodle. (What is a caboodle anyway?)

Typically a spa will consist of a dry sauna, a steam room, a Jacuzzi, a refreshment area, showers and treatment rooms. If personal health/hygiene isn’t a primary concern (i.e. it’s somewhere to go and get laid), there’ll be “rest rooms”, video lounges and pleasure mazes…of a sort.

I was first introduced to saunas in 2000 by an ex when we spent the day in Manchester on the way back from Blackpool and I’m glad I went. We’d had a massive row on the train y’see and after I’d finished ralphing up my breakfast (that was the last fried egg I ate for a decade that day) and watched the end of Stanley Matthews’ funeral parade, we were on our way back to Nottingham when I had a sudden brainwave and asked the staff at Manchester Piccadilly if I could get off here and then rejoin the service later in the day.

And so we went to a spa somewhere north of the city. For me, that experience really set the scene somewhat of what happens. My experience of saunas before involved two steam room experiences on the only occasions I went to a gym whilst working at Capital One. As the purpose of the gym’s steam room was for athletic purposes rather than relaxation, my experience was less than positive. Too hot, too steamy and the seats were far too scalding.

Now – I don’t enjoy it unless the ambient temperature of the facilities is hot enough to cause the flesh to slide off the bone. Always start with the dry sauna. They say you should shower first thing but I make a beeline for the dry sauna. I figure I’m going to sweat in there so no point washing off just to get covered in essence of Joe. Plus you never want to go into a dry sauna when wet – you get hotter faster and overall tolerance levels drop. Best to suck up the heat straight away. Then shower, followed by a dip in the Jacuzzi to relax properly. After the Jacuzzi, can vary the routine to take in everything. Me? I like a good sweat to get the heart rate going and to feel really, really clean by the end of the experience.

Of course, I hope to visit other countries and see what they have going like the Turkish Hamman (thank-you Sid Meier) or a proper Roman Bath. But that’s some way off in the future I think. However, H’s horror story of what happened in the Hamman in Istanbul is a cautionary tale for us all. Though it also sounds very much like what happened in the Moneypenny Diaries; though that was in Moscow. Good series of books tho’.

Last night’s quiz ended in failure, abject failure. In our defence, it was a tough quiz. We did come within a hair of winning the jackpot of £150 but were just over thus disqualifying our entry. And we were kinda forced to share a table with a couple of drunken idiots as the pub was packed out – I suspect the hail shower forced people into seeking refuge in the pub thus the pub was busier than normal. Still, it reinforced the need for a full sized team to reinforce each others weaknesses. And Alex & I were about to swindle £10 from the quiz machine by winning Monopoly twice.

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